The Wheelersburg Lady Pirates hit the road Wednesday afternoon leaving Scioto County headed to Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio where they will play in a OHSAA Division III State Semifinal game against the Johnstown-Monroe Lady Johnnies.
The Lady Pirates are two wins away from capturing a Division III State Championship.
Everything has been business as usual for Wheelersburg after capturing a regional title last week in Lancaster, Ohio.
“We’ve been pretty much in our same routine,” Teresa Ruby, Wheelersburg softball coach, said. “We took Sunday off, since some of the kids had graduation and stuff and then got back into our regular practice groove for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Wheelersburg has been preparing for the opportunity to play for a state championship all season, according to Ruby, which is why the Lady Pirates have continued their normal routine heading into Thursday’s match-up against Johnstown-Monroe.
“That’s part of our whole approach with the kids,” Ruby said. “We’ve prepared all season and we don’t have to do anything different now, than what we’ve been doing all season.”
Practices have gone well for the Lady Pirates this week.
“The kids are still focused and still engaged,” Ruby said. “I think the hardest thing they’ve been dealing with is the heat. It has been hot this week. Other than that, the kids have been real sharp and focused.”
Ruby anticipates the experience from last year’s appearance in the state round will benefit the Lady Pirates this year, as the team will feel more comfortable with the routine of the final days of the tournament, as well as knowing what to expect from the field itself.
“We’re hoping and we’re planning on the fact that we have been there, so we’ll have a little bit more of a comfort level than we did last year and hopefully that will make a big difference for us.”
Returning to the state round has been a goal for Wheelersburg since the first team meeting for this season. While the main goal has been a return to the state tournament, Ruby broke it down to several smaller goals leading into each other.
“A league championship was one,” Ruby said. “Not losing focus on the steps we need to take to get there (state tournament), the kids have been real business-like about this. I hope that they remain focused on finishing it and finishing it right. I’m really encouraged about that.”
Ruby had the opportunity to see her squad’s opponents play in the regional final round and knows her team will face a quality opponent when the first pitch is thrown in Akron, Thursday afternoon.
“When you’re playing in that state tournament, anyone you play is going to be solid,” Ruby said.
Johnstown-Monroe has a top quality, young pitcher, according to Ruby.
“She throws hard and throws some balls with movement,” Ruby said. “We’re going to need to be disciplined at the plate and communicate with one another.”
After arriving in Akron, Ruby said her team was going to settle in the hotel.
“We’re going to let the kids have a little bit of fun and make sure we get to bed early,” Ruby said. “We’ve had a couple out of town trips this year to prepare for the possibility of this.
“Like I said, our kids are focused and we’re not going to be out all night. We’re just going to get settled in and get comfortable and get ready for tomorrow (Thursday).”
First pitch for the state semifinal game between Wheelersburg and Johnstown-Monroe is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. at Firestone Stadium in Akron. The Lady Pirates will be the home team on the scoreboard and enter the game ranked first by the final Coaches Association State Poll.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.